Thursday, July 31, 2014

Intermission: Edge of the Empire

It's been more than a month now since the last entry on the Mar Tesaro game. Writing took an unexpected hiatus, first for a much needed vacation, and then so I could properly prepare a couple of one-shot games for Charm City Gameday. Things have still been busy, but it seemed like there would be time to discuss a game I played at CCGD, the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG.

In case you didn't know how to click a link to figure out what I'm talking about.

The actual session was a mini-adventure put together by Fantasy Flight, the company that produced the game. The story elements of the session aren't really important, although it was fun. It was definitely made for beginners, as the players are gradually introduced to the various elements of the system, such as the dice, skill and combat mechanics, space combat, even character advancement.
(See the rest below the fold.)
The dice deserve some discussion, as they distinguish the game from those that came before it.
Just to make things perfectly clear.
The game measures success/failure on the basis of the dice above. There are positive markers (success and advantage) and negative markers (failure and threat). Success/failure cancel each other out, but as long as you have one net success, you generally get to do what you set out to do. Advantage/threat work the same way, but act as a secondary track. For example, enough advantage will turn a hit into a crit, or offer a secondary benefit, such as gleaning a personal secret from an NPC. Most the time, all it does is add bonus or setback dice (the blue/black dice above.) The triumph and despair symbols represent critical success/failure. 

Your skills are represented by a dice pool. You start off with a number of the green dice; if you're really good with the skill, you get more dice, or dice start upgrading to yellow. There are no opposed rolls; difficulty in a task means you add in purple dice to your roll (which can be "upgraded" to red dice.)

It's an interesting system. It reminded me a lot of fudge dice, only with two tracks of success rather than one. 
Less interesting, but a lot more intuitive.
It may have been the nature of the game, being a beginner's adventure, but I felt like the advantage/disadvantage track rarely made any difference, aside from the occasional bonus die. Perhaps if we'd been roleplaying more, the nuances of the system would have been clearer, but it came off as superfluous.

The session ended with space combat, a staple of any Star Wars game. I only mention it to point out that they haven't really done anything to improve the concept above what other systems try to do with it. Most games will put all of the characters in a single ship, relegating players to the role of pilot, gunner, or engineer. Pilots steer the ship and dodge incoming fire. Gunners create outgoing fire. Engineers try to keep the ship from falling apart in the midst of combat. 

The individual roles are sensible, but only give the illusion of tactical complexity. If the ship acted as a single unit, you'd spend your turn weighing the choices of attacking, evading, or repairing (or the variations on those actions offered by different systems.) When those actions are spread out to each of the players, there's no choice to make. The player has a single button to press, so on his turn he'll press it. It's just not interesting gameplay.

Worse, most systems that include space combat as part of the gameplay also include character advancement options that include perks and talents for space combat. Fine concepts, but for most players this means diluting their character's effectiveness in one arena in order to shore it up in another, leaving a character who is mediocre on land or in space. Perhaps that works for some people, but I don't find that to be compelling.
Yay! Stock photographs!
In any case, we made it through the entire adventure, only to have our spaceship destroyed while fleeing from TIE fighters. At least everything up to that point was fun.


Wednesday Boy said...

It's a system that I'm quite interested in trying.

Xer0 said...

I have EotE and I do like it. I know exactly what you're saying about how it handles space combat and I think it's lacking. That being said, I've heard that when you look at Age of Rebellion, those rules make more sense, though I don't know how yet.

I'm glad Wednesday Boy expressed interest in playing it, because I do want to run it for you guys at some point too.